The Vikings-Packers rivalry has been going on for 60 years on the football field. This year, it has expanded to liquor stores.
In 2018, former Minnesota Pro Bowl linebacker Chad Greenway helped launch Gray Duck Vodka, its name coming from when then-Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph initiated a “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck” team celebration in the end zone following a touchdown at Chicago in October 2017.
Last February, former Green Bay Pro Bowl safety LeRoy Butler, who invented the Lambeau Leap celebration at Lambeau Field in 1993, unveiled Leap Premium Vodka. Butler got the idea from what Greenway was doing in the vodka business and had talked to him about it.
Gray Duck Vodka is available in five states, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Leap Premium Vodka is only available in Wisconsin, but in some liquor stores in the state can be found on the same shelf as Gray Duck.
“There’s definitely stores in Western Wisconsin that you can go and pick them both up and you just do a taste test right there on the spot,” said Greenway, who played for the Vikings from 2006-16 and continues to live in the Twin Cities. “Just ask a manager to open them up for you. And I think we all know who’s going to win that one. … LeRoy has the second-best vodka in the Midwest behind ours.’’
With the Vikings and Packers facing off Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, there is plenty for Greenway and Butler to argue about regarding one of the NFL’s best rivalries. Greenway this week appeared on “The Big Show” on Milwaukee radio station WSSP-AM to discuss the game. Butler is one of three hosts on the show and has had Greenway on several times.
The two don’t argue about vodka on the show, but they’ve spoken many times on the phone and texted back and forth, each claiming to have the better vodka.
Butler, who played for the Packers from 1990-2001 and was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021, said he never has consumed alcohol. However, he has someone he relies on for taste tests near his home in the Milwaukee area.
“I have a connoisseur vodka drinker in my neighbor,’’ Butler said. “He’s 81 years old, and all he does is drink vodka. He’s tasted mine. He’s said it’s some of the best he’s ever had, better than Tito’s, Grey Goose and especially Chad’s vodka.”
Greenway has three partners in Twin Cities-based Gray Duck Spirits, the others being Mark Cotter, Jerry Schulz and Jamie Quesnel. He said they came to him with the idea for the vodka after witnessing Rudolph’s touchdown celebration at Soldier Field on Monday Night Football. The celebration got some additional publicity because the children’s game Vikings players did while sitting in the end zone is known as “Duck, Duck, Goose, Goose” just about everywhere by Minnesota.
“The other version we can’t mention,’’ Greenway said.
Greenway is thrilled with how the business has done, saying it’s available in a “couple thousand” locations in the Twin Cities. Earlier this year, the brand introduced a seltzer.
Greenway noted that the vodka is made with Minnesota-grown corn, is distilled in Benson, Minn., and is bottled in Shakopee. He said the business benefits charities in the state, and that the company recently wrote a $50,000 check to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
“It’s been amazing what we’ve seen from the state-wide response to it,’’ said Greenway, who makes many appearances on behalf of the vodka. “I’m having a fun time meeting people and getting out in the state of Minnesota,”
Late last year, there was a group that sought to do something similar in Wisconsin. Through contacts, Greenway reached out to Butler and told him how his business worked.
“I know people think that us players on different teams, we don’t like each other but that’s not true,’’ said Butler, who had never had any previous contact with Greenway. “But Chad told me all about it. He told me about the marketing, and I love marketing.”
Butler then joined forces with three partners to come up with Leap Premium Vodka. Butler liked the idea because he wants to cater to Packers tailgaters, and it goes along with the company he has that produces LeRoy Butler Gameday Brats.
Interestingly, Greenway and Butler never have met in the person but they’re hoping to hook up at some point when things settle down more following the coronavirus pandemic. Phone calls and texts between the two often include some bragging about the awards each of the vodkas have won, but Butler said it is good-natured rivalry.
“I want to see him do well and he wants to see me do well,’’ he said.
“When you play in the NFL, you have a respect and affinity for guys (who also played in the league),’’ Greenway said. “He’s got a couple of other business practices that he’s doing in Wisconsin. So he got into Leap Premium Vodka, and it’s kind of fun to be a part of his story.”